As chef/owner, Fowee had built a following in that neck of the woods but outgrew the space. A couple months ago she reopened in the former Iron Horse restaurant space on Glendale Square and suddenly had more than twice the space and a subsequent 70 percent spike in business, she says.
That uptick probably explains the service problems we encountered at a Friday night dinner — after appetizers, we waited almost a half hour for entrées. Fowee said in a follow-up conversation that they’re still ironing out the transition, learning how to navigate the large building, space dinner reservations and manage staff.
Although I prefer to review restaurants with friends along, on that particular Friday, my husband George and I couldn’t find anyone to go with us, so we went on our own. Things started well as we sat in a main dining room on the first floor and perused the wine list.
Although it’s not the most extensive list, I was happy with the bottle selections. Among red wines there’s a section of 12 Meritage and red blends ($34-$110), which seemed like the obvious place to settle.
According to the website for the Meritage Alliance (founded in 1988), the word combines “merit,” reflecting high-quality grapes, with “heritage,” meant to recognize “the centuries-old tradition of blending, long considered to be the highest form of the winemaker’s art.” For an American wine to use the word “Meritage” on its label, it must be a member of this alliance and be blended from some or all of a specific list of grape varietals.
We selected a bottle of Seabiscuit Ranch Superfecta Meritage (2009) from Mendocino, Calif. ($58). It was well balanced with a moderate fruitiness and noticeable but not overwhelming oak. We didn’t want a heavy, tannic wine since we usually order lighter dishes, and this one went well with the array of tastes we tried.
The restaurant serves both lunch and dinner from the same menu, which includes nine sandwiches ($11-$16), a half-dozen appetizers ($10-$12) and a dozen entrées ($22-$44), along with a couple of soup or salad choices ($5-$11).
For starters, I went with the half-size Meritage salad. Candied pecans, pear slices, pancetta and bits of Brie cheese made it a good salad, and it was the bargain of the night at $5. George didn’t do as well with his app, which consisted of two very small scallops looking lonesome on the plate for $12. Our server brought us some bread, and then we waited.
We noticed that other tables were pretty much without food, too, although people who ordered sandwiches seemed to do a little better. Finally, our entrées showed up.
My choice was the Mt. Carmel-glazed lamb chops ($35), a specialty of the house, which I thought would be a good match with the red wine.
The plate included five fairly meaty rib-cut chops, nicely cooked to medium rare and served with sides of sautéed spinach and macaroni and cheese.
With such a rich cut of meat, I would have preferred a lighter carb than mac-and-cheese, but someone with a heartier appetite might feel otherwise.
George liked his seafood special, red snapper served in a wine/butter sauce with potatoes and a little bit of green veggie, although we were surprised when the check came and the price of the dish was $35. As with the scallops, the portion didn’t quite justify the cost.
After the lamb entrée, which I didn’t come close to finishing, dessert didn’t seem too appealing. But George was still hungry and I talked myself into it with the thought that CityBeat’s readers deserve to hear about the restaurant’s sweet offerings. Our server listed the pastries of the night, from which we chose a slice of peach pie and crème brûlée ($7 each).
We liked the pie a lot; flaky crust with just the right amount of shortening under a hefty pile of sliced peaches and vanilla ice cream on the side. I usually appreciate any kind of custard or pudding dessert, but the crème brûlée wasn’t distinguishable from many others I’ve had around town.
We went upstairs after we finished, where there’s another dining room and bar with a more casual atmosphere. We ran into an old friend we hadn’t seen in years and talked over a lounge band playing across the room while a few families and couples enjoyed sandwiches and beers. There’s also a fairly large patio facing the square.
As an independent suburban restaurant offering steak-and-seafood fare, Meritage fills a void in Glendale for the relatively upscale consumer who doesn’t want to drive into the city.
GO: 40 Village Square, Glendale; CALL: 513-376-8134; INTERNET: meritagecincy.com; HOURS: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday; 4-11 p.m. Saturday; 4-9 p.m. Sunday.